The Descendants, Alexander Payne's eagerly anticipated followup to Sideways, tells a sad, drawn out tale of grief and growth with a mellow Hawaiian flavour.
Plenty of critics have sounded off on The Descendants as a triumph on par with Sideways, but for whatever reason, something about this film did not ring true for me. Maybe it was the unevenness of the dramatic and comedic elements. Maybe it was the awkward beats in the editing. Maybe it was the constant interjection of those soothing acoustic tunes on the soundtrack which, pleasant though they may be, persistently undermined the drama Payne was trying to convey. Maybe it was a combination of these things and more. I get the feeling that there's a lot of genuine emotion to be felt from this movie, but I was just not feeling it.
The cast felt somewhat inconsistent. Perhaps you could chalk this up to the way the characters were written, or to direction more than anything else, but few of the actors gave performances that held me 100 % of the time. Clooney, of course, is the important exception. He's very good as a man who doesn't understand how to express his sorrow. Shailene Woodley has some strong moments as his embittered daughter, and Robert Forster nails his two short scenes as the blame-laying father in law. Otherwise, the movie usually comes off as plain.
**1/2 out of ****